Queen’s faces of mental illness: Loving my body again

As part of Mental Illness Awareness Week, Lifestyle featured personal stories from Queen’s student each day from Oct. 6-10. We’ll be continuing the initiative throughout the year with more stories. If you’re interested in submitting a story, please email journal_lifestyle@ams.queensu.ca.

When I was 12, I started hating my body.

I’ve had to repeat those words over and over again for the last nine years. When doctors ask if I can pinpoint when my life went wrong, I say that sentence.

I went for many years without knowing the true meaning of mental health stigma. I made the same jokes as my friends about people being crazy or insane. The weather was bipolar or the organized kids were OCD.

It was funny, and we weren’t hurting anyone right? Wrong. It took me a long time to see that these words weren’t just adjectives; they were serious illnesses that affected more people than I could ever have imagined.

I blossomed in high school and by the end of ninth grade, I had forgotten about throwing away my lunch or purging it back up. I didn’t have a real eating disorder. I couldn’t. It was just something I did for attention or to make myself feel better about hating my body. People could get over their eating disorders. No big deal.

When I graduated high school, I lost myself. After a traumatic summer incident, all of the anxiety and depressive thoughts of my preteen years came rushing back. My high school happiness was gone and I reverted to the shy child I had once been. That’s when I started see psychologists and psychiatrists.

It was well-known that I had anxiety and depression, but there was something else wrong that we couldn’t figure out. I ended up diagnosed with seven different disorders. I didn’t know how to even begin sifting through all of the information and names and symptoms. Long story short, I don’t have seven illnesses.

It took over two years to get me where I am today: I am a 21-year-old girl with anxiety, atypical anorexia and bipolar type II.

I have dealt with panic attacks, a suicide attempt and hospital trips for dehydration. I spent my first year at Queen’s in my room, exhausted from my chaotic relationship with food and crippling depression. But I have come back stronger this year.

I know who I am and what illnesses my brain suffers from. I get anxious over little things sometimes. I have a hard time regulating my emotions sometimes. I have a hard time making myself eat meals regularly. But I am happier than I was last year and the year before.

I was able to put aside my shame and let everyone know I had anxiety. I made that very public. I shared my anorexia experiences, but I’m still working on letting my floormates know about it. I’m still fighting my own internalized stigma surround my bipolar disorder, but I know that I have support if I need it. My friends still love me and my family still loves me. In conquering the stigma I feel, I can diminish the stigma people try to use against me.

When I was 12, I started hating my body. When I was 21, I started trying to love it again.

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